• Scott Edinburgh

Harvard Business School Class Of 2020 – Fall 2017 Essay Question Analysis

HBS has just announced that its 2017-2018 application question will remain the same for class of 2020 hopefuls and the deadlines are as follows:

  • Round 1: September 6, 2017

  • Round 2: January 3, 2018

  • Round 3 / 2+2: TBD (sometime in early April)

While we already published considerable detail on this question last year, we wanted to share some additional insight and learnings to consider while you draft your answer.

Question: “As we review your application, what more would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy for the Harvard Business School MBA Program?”

As everyone is likely well aware, HBS educates and admits leaders. An essay that does not SHOW leadership will not be successful. Once again, I remind applicants to watch this video on the HBS case method to re-enforce how critical leadership and diversity of thought is to HBS. With this in mind, along with Harvard’s other stated values of analytics and community, think about this essay as your chance to let them “meet” the real you. The person behind the resume and application questions.

Of course, it is ok (and recommended) to discuss professional accomplishments but make sure to share enough so that the admissions committee can learn more about you on a personal level. Most successful essays have included some sort of personal anecdote at minimum and often a much more detailed personal story. Every candidate has made specific choices in their lives, some more significant than others. Think about what has had the greatest impact on your choices, who you are today or who you want to be. This will likely give you some areas to expand upon. But don’t just tell this story, as we have said in the past, try to help the reader live it. Include details and specifics. Tell the reader how you felt at the time. Explain what you did in response to the situation and circumstances at hand.

Be sure to touch on the WHY. We don’t mean why HBS? but the why in your life. The most successful individuals follow their passions and these are usually shaped by a particular experience or personality trait. Help the reader to understand why you made the choice(s) you made and what really drives you.

It goes without saying that whatever story or stories you choose should show leadership and how you have excelled. As we opened with, HBS is all about leaders. Your story should show you being a leader in some way, shape or form. HBS students will emerge as leaders in the areas they are most passionate about. They will drive change. They are not afraid to stand up for their beliefs. They show courage. You want the admissions committee to see you living these traits.

Finally, mention your future ambitions. For some essays, this can be as short as a line weaving it all together. For others, this section will be longer. This is NOT a why HBS or career goals essay, but you would be remiss not to at least give the admissions committee a glimpse of where you are headed (which of course should naturally flow from the rest of the essay). If it does not, this section might be a bit longer to help explain this.

Remember, do not repeat what is already included elsewhere in your application and do not try to repurpose another essay. This will be evident immediately to any reader and will do you a large disservice.

If you would like individual and personalized support while applying to HBS, please find information about Personal MBA Coach’s comprehensive packages or contact us to learn how we can help! Last year we not only got applicants into HBS and all other top programs, but helped them to receive over $3.5M in fellowships. -

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